Declining births: is civilisation going to crumble?

Speaking at a corporate event last week, Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk lamented that too many “good, smart people” were worried about the global population growing out of control.

The real problem, he insisted, was quite the opposite: “There are not enough people. I can’t emphasise this enough, there are not enough people.” “Please look at the numbers,” he told the business audience – “if people don’t have more children, civilisation is going to crumble, mark my words.”

At first glance, the numbers don’t really support Musk’s argument, In the past 200 years, the global population has multiplied from one billion to almost eight billion, and it’s expected to keep growing until the end of this century, when it’s projected to reach almost 11 billion. But those figures mask a very uneven picture.

Many parts of the world, including swathes of Europe, are indeed facing a “population bust”. Romania, for instance, is set to go from around 20 million people today to just 12 million by 2100. Over the same period, Italy’s population is set to shrink by a third.

Longer life expectancy and immigration are currently “topping up the head-count” in many countries, but these compensating factors won’t always make up for birth rates that are way below the replacement level of 2.1 babies per woman. In nations such as South Korea, birth rates are less than half that. Musk has a point.

Fertility rates have been falling in the West for a long time but the “pace of change seems to be accelerating” as other nations follow the same path. Birth rates in all four “BRIC” emerging market economies (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are now below replacement level. “The world’s fertility rate, which stood at 3.5 births per woman in the mid-1980s, fell to just 2.4 in 2019. This demographic transition will generate some economic challenges as the world’s population ages, but also some benefits. It will, for one thing, make the task of cutting carbon emissions “less daunting”.

Whatever happens, there’s little the “pro-natalists” can do to stop the trend “short of building a new Gilead”. The reality is that as female education improves, birth rates drop. In advanced economies, most people can’t afford to have big families. We’ll have to leave it to wealthy altruists such as Musk, with his six children, and Boris Johnson, whose seventh child arrived recently, to save civilisation. (The Economist, Harry de Quetteville, The Daily Telegraph, and Catherine Bennett,The Observer. all edited for length, 18 Dec 2021).

My opinion: We need fewer people and more and better education. A growing population may have made corporations more money, but it has not improved the lives of people anywhere. And forcing women to have children they don’t want is inhumane toward all involved.

The politics of crude vulgarity

“My family in the rural Midwest recently told me they’ve begun to see flags flying outside private homes bearing the message, “F–k Biden.” Underneath that statement, in smaller typeface, the thought continues: “…and f–k you for voting for him.”

“If you’re surprised that politics has descended to such depths, you haven’t been paying attention.

“I first noticed the shift into the politics of vulgarity and insult in the weeks leading up to the 2016 presidential election, when I occasionally began to see bumper stickers in the suburbs west of Philadelphia that read, “F–k your feelings. Donald Trump for President.” Five years later, similar expressions are far more widespread, at least in some parts of the country. When I tweeted just before Christmas about what my midwestern family had told me, some of my followers confirmed seeing the flags — in the Cincinnati area, in Michigan, in eastern Ohio. (Try your own search for the flags on Google images. You’ll find numerous variations. This is big business). “
Damon Linker, 29 Dec 2021

My question: What happened to America? What has become of us? Epicurus advised us to ignore politics, but this isn’t politics as we knew it; it’s crude, violent and degrading.

Romance scams

Romance scams have cost consumers a record $304 million as more people have searched for love online during the pandemic. As the pandemic encouraged people to spend more time online, criminals targeted people on dating apps and social media platforms, especially older Americans. Adults 60 and older lost $139 million to romance scams in 2020, the FTC says.

My comment: the internet in its various guises is getting a truly dreadful press these days. Suggestion: confine your attentions to sites that are informed, intellectual etc. etc. That is, sites like Epicurus.Today (well, if I don’t advertise no one else will).

Quote of the day

“To those who abuse us for simply making polite requests to wear masks or to maintain social distance in hospitals or GP practices, to those who deny the existence of the pandemic or the science of vaccination, to those who issue death threats or incite violence against us, we say enough is enough.”
(Gill Walton, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives)

My comment: Why is it that there are so many people who despise science and scientists? Could it have anything to do with lack of science in schools, or even, lack of any useful education at all?

Just asking.

This and that

Speculation has emerged that penguins may be aliens after scientists found traces of a chemical from Venus in their droppings.

Experts are struggling to explain how phosphine exists on Earth – 38 million miles away from Venus. Scientists in the UK who believe alien life forms may have already been detected say studying penguins could help them identify the types of organisms that exist on other worlds. (The Week, 22 Sept 2021)

My comment: I think this was brought to Earth by an asteroid. After all, why should phosphine be uniquely from Venus? And I don’t know nothing. Any better ideas?

Christmas greetings!

At this time of the year it’s difficult to know what to say without offending someone ?

So I’ve checked with my legal adviser and on his advice I wish to say the following to all my friends and relatives:

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced with the most enjoyable traditions of religious persuasion or secular practices of your choice with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2022, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make our country great (not to imply that either the US or Great Britain are necessarily greater than any other countries) and without regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.

By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms:

This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for her/himself or others and is void where prohibited by law, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.

No trees were harmed in the sending of this message; however, a significant number of electrons were slightly inconvenienced!

(My apology: The above arrived in my IN box. I copied it, but somehow it then totally disappeared. So no, I did not compose it and have forgotten who it came from. Welcome to my semi-reliable i-pad and my own old age! At least I can share it with you!)

One of many troubling events

Back in October Benito Mussolini’s granddaughter won the highest number of votes in elections for Rome’s city council. Rachele Mussolini, who won over 8,200 votes, belongs to the far-right party Brothers of Italy. (The Guardian 7 Oct 2021)

My comment: Extremists are popping up in greater numbers, but pose the most immediate danger in the US. Epicurus might not have liked politicians, but I am sure, we’re he alive today, he would advocate locking up the coup-lovers and racists in order that we all can enjoy true liberty. Fascism, in whatever country, is violent, cruel and corrupt and is the forerunner of national decay, if not violence and collapse.

Careless of lives or just plain stupid?

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced yet another challenge from within his own Conservative Party when Brexit Minister David Frost resigned effective immediately from Johnson’s cabinet Saturday. Frost, a member of the House of Lords, had planned to resign next month, but moved his timetable up to protest Johnson’s new COVID restrictions. Instead of implementing vaccine passports, Frost wrote in his resignation letter, the U.K. should “learn to live with COVID.” Earlier this week, 99 Conservative members of parliament voted against the passports in the largest defection of Johnson’s premiership. Frost urged Johnson not to be “tempted by the kind of coercive measures we have seen elsewhere.” [The Associated Press, BBC]

“………… learning to live with covid? Words fail me. I don’t know what these people learn or are told when they go to church, but since when has any religion advocated the selfish refusal to get vaccinated and to wear a mask? When I was a child I learned that christians should have compassion and care for those around them. One wonders what message nowadays comes from the pulpit. The rules laid down by most nations of the world, faced with omicron, simply reinforce the rather obvious – don’t endanger others, whereas “Look after yourself and to hell with everyone else” seems to be the latest message?

Vatican announces new restrictions on Latin Mass

A Vatican document released last Saturday imposed further restrictions on the pre-Vatican II liturgy, including a prohibition on listing Latin Masses in parish bulletins. A preference for the old Mass is often associated with political conservatism and with a lack of support for Pope Francis.

In his introduction to the document, Archbishop Arthur Roche, the head of the Vatican’s liturgy office, said clergy “must not lend ourselves to sterile polemics, capable only of creating division, in which the ritual itself is often exploited by ideological viewpoints.” Critics have accused the pope of punitively targeting small groups of devout, traditional Catholics while allowing modernist liturgical irregularities to run rampant. [National Catholic Reporter, Reuters]

My comment: In my humble opinion liturgy is unimportant compared with
personal behaviour. By this I include compassion, kindness, generosity, thoughtfulness, politeness, acceptance of diversity, patience, sense of humor; in fact, all the good characteristics of a person trying to live up to Epicurean ideals. There is no Epicurean “liturgy”; decent behaviour, respect and tolerance of the opinions of others are key.

(And, by the way, if I argued that Epicureans should speak ancient Greek when discussing Epicurus you would giggle hysterically. I have nothing against Latin; I scraped through a Latin exam to be accepted by my college many years ago. But speaking it every Sunday is, well, un- modern and faintly ridiculous. The Pope is right).

In the realm of the weird

Duck recorded speaking to human
Scientists have recorded the first known instance of a duck that has learned to mimic human speech. The duck in in Australia – called Ripper – said: “You bloody fool.” Parrots, songbirds and hummingbirds were thought to be the only birds thought to be able to mimic human speech, though several mammals such as whales, dolphins, seals, bats and elephants can also imitate sounds. (Washington Post 22 September 2021)

My comment: Amazing how some people spend their adult lives. Imagine being a scientist whose only acclaimed triumph is to record a duck speaking to him.
Questions arise, for instance, was alcohol involved?

Tax everyone fairly!

Not only do billionaires pay lower tax rates than working Americans, they also get to pick and choose when to pay taxes at all. Because they only pay taxes when they sell assets, if they don’t sell their assets, they don’t pay any taxes. That’s how many billionaires ended up with so little annual earnings that many actually had income low enough to qualify for stimulus checks last year (remember, the cutoff was $75,000 a year of income).

So next time the mega-rich whine about how they’re being unfairly persecuted, remember that all we’re asking them to do is pay taxes just like everyone else. This country values a dollar made off a rich investor’s money more than a dollar made off your sweat. We’re not targeting billionaires, we’re saying we want them to play by the same rules as the rest of the country. They’ve just gotten so used to special treatment that an equal playing field looks unfair. (The Patriotic Millionaires, 11 Nov 2021)

My comment: One law for the rich, another for the poor. One of the things that Epicureans have complained about for as long as there has been written history. Others applaud them as they buy legislation that suits their interests. This is not just; it is not acceptable.

Far too few fraudulent votes to change 2020 election

There were fewer than 475 potential cases of voter fraud in the six battleground states that former President Donald Trump disputed, far too few to change the results of the 2020 presidential election, The Associated Press reported Tuesday after a review of every flagged ballot. President Biden beat Trump in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin by a total of 311,257 votes. The allegedly fraudulent votes weren’t all for Biden, but most were spotted and never added to official vote counts. The AP also found that there was no collusion among the people who cast the fraudulent ballots.

Trump responded to the AP report by repeating his baseless claim that the election was stolen from him through voter fraud. [The Associated Press and The Week, 15 Dec 2021).

My comment: Epicurus loathed politics and wouldn’t discuss them. But there comes a time when you have to accept the truth and stand up for honesty and integrity in public life. The so-called “fraudulent” election. is a glorified vanity project, but it affects every American citizen and is extremely dangerous.

The Rhyme

Poetry (when calming and evocative) is very Epicurean. All the more so, I maintain, when it is rhymed. Why is that? Is it personal preference?

Poets now despise the rhyme,
Or that’s the affectation.
But nonsense is as nonsense does
And what is worse
Than bad blank verse? –
Gibberish strung a word a line,
Conforming to the fashion?
The wish being father to the thought,
It’s promptly

Rhymes outdated? That’s just rot!
Some can rhyme, and some can not.

It’s content, not the form, that counts,
And mastery of meaning.
A certain discipline of mind
Is requisite when using rhyme.
So don’t reject the tools at hand,
Misused as they may be.
The means can justify the end.
My point is
The End!

(Robert Hanrott, sometime in the last half century)

Opus Dei

Opus Dei is an (extreme) organization within the Catholic Church, dedicated to “seeking holiness” in every aspect of the lives of its adherents, especially at work. Its members are supposed to follow a daily two hour ritual of wearing a spiked metal chain on their thighs. This is intended to remind them of the suffering of Jesus. They believe that this life is a vale of tears, that homosexuals are so by choice, that family planning is the work of the devil, and along with it abortion. They reject the part of the constitution that separates church and State and believe that the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic church was caused by the relaxation of church dogma in the 1970s. There is no such thing as over-population; on the contrary: misery and poverty are nothing when you contemplate the angelic trumpets and the glory of the afterlife. Satan, says one prominent member of Opus Dei, has used the vices of pride, vanity and sensuality to corrupt universities, politics and Protestant churches. The Roman church is all that stands in the way of wholesale damnation.

My comment: I think he has a point.  Where can I buy an iron belt with spikes, anyone?

I think we are lost!

Drivers drove their vehicles into protestors at least 139 times between late May 2020 and the end of September 2021, killing three people and injuring at least 100. A nationwide analysis indicates that only 75 of the ramming cases led to any charges, with only 4 drivers convicted of felonies. (The Boston Globe).

My comment: To drive recklessly and deliberately at pedestrians raises hatred and inhumanity to levels more appropriate for the Nazi regime than for USA 2021. And not to charge the perpetrators?! I don’t have the detail, but suspect that the demonstrators may have been black. But race and color are not the main point – it is humanity, respect and decency that does, and these civilized aspects of human beings appear to be sidelined and subsumed by political hatred and cruelty.

Epicurus would utterly condemn such attitudes and gladly incarcerate the perpetrators,sine die.